Mar 30, 2021
The X-Files: Back in the Groove (S10, E2 Recap)
The first thing we see is a very blood shot eye looking into a retinal scanner. Dr. Sanjay is going to work at Nugenics. A coworker remarks on his appearance, “Rough weekend? Work or pleasure?” To which he replies, “I haven’t known pleasure in some time.”
There’s a piercing sound he’s hearing that’s so loud it drowns out his coworkers at a meeting. Nobody else is hearing it. There are crows ominously gathering outside a window. We hear enough to gather that the “founder” Augustus Goldman wants results and data is the key. There is something pleasantly familiar about this sequence. It’s the comfort food – the macaroni and cheese, not only of classic X-Files, but of shows that influenced it and shows (like Fringe) that it influenced. Could we be heading toward a head explosion? Even better we’re heading toward a variation on the head explosion. Sanjay walks out of the meeting, locks himself in the server room, starts typing, then as they try to drill into the room, he writes something quickly on his hand, takes a letter opener, and stabs himself through the ear. Cringe-worthy, and beautifully done!
Cue the credits and time to wonder what any of this had to do with any of this had to do with the previous episode and the “venal men” with their nefarious plans. But who cares really when the game’s a foot and you’re heading into “monster of the week” territory, a mystery that will be solved within the hour, even if it is only a piece of a larger puzzle.
Scully and Mulder emerge from a car. Mulder is clean shaven, suit and tie. Gone is last week’s puffiness. Scully is also wearing a suit. She looks refreshed. Her face is less gaunt. They take out their FBI credentials and head inside Nugenics.
If you’re streaming, you might pause to make sure you’re not accidentally watching something from fourteen years ago. Once you realize that you’re not. you might ask yourself: Why would the powers that be – the “venal men” lying about everything – allow Skinner to reopen the X-Files and reinstate them? Surely, Cigarette Man could have put a stop to this? But if you get stuck on those questions you might as well watch something else.
Mulder manages to grab the dead guy’s phone, before someone from Department of Defense pulls rank and kicks them out. The project was classified. Mulder managed to steal the dead guy’s phone, and finds a name, Gupta. He’s going to check out the lead. Meantime, Scully gets the body for autopsy, so we get our gore fix.
Turns out Gupta is a male, occasional hook-up, and the oddity of Sanjay’s being closeted is commented on later by Scully. They sometimes met in Sanjay’s “antiseptic” apartment. Sanjay talked about his “kids,” that they were dying. But according to Mulder, he didn’t have any kids.
Mulder meets Scully at the lab. Sanjay’s head is now cut open. He’d destroyed his audio center, and the trajectory of the blade veered as if he were hunting for something. His last words to his co-workers at the meeting were, “Did anybody hear that?” Scully found the words, “Founder’s mutation,” written on his hand.
They check out the place he actually lived, which was not antiseptic. There’s a wall of photos of children, most with visible abnormalities. It should ring a bell with the viewers because Scully had a wall of earless children in the previous episode. Mulder opens up a drawer and suddenly, he’s hearing the noise and doubled over in pain. The police arrive at the scene. The sound is loud enough that Mulder can’t hear Scully talking to them.
As in the last episode, this one is choppy. We go directly from the apartment and Mulder in pain, to Mulder and Scully checking in at the FBI with Skinner. He welcomes them back, but other than that, it’s like they never left. A Department of Defense guy comes in, the files on all the kids in the photos are classified. He takes them away. Once he’s gone, it’s clear Mulder made copies, they’re going to continue investigating with Skinner’s okay, and Sanjay’s death is linked to his work with genetic mutations.
They’re looking at video from the lab. Scully asks what happened to Mulder, and why she didn’t ask him about it much earlier is another mystery. They notice the birds, and theorize they were attracted by the sound, but why did only Sanjay hear it and why did Mulder?
They have a connection to “the founder” through a nun Scully knows who runs a women’s shelter that Goldman supports. They see her at the facility. All the women are young and pregnant. You’d think the nun would at least be in on this enough to keep the FBI out, but… They tell her Goldman is under investigation Mulder says, “Obamacare” which is a cute conspiracy joke and also another reminder we’re not watching a random episode from an earlier season. She says she’ll get in touch with him. Mulder suggests, “Ask him about the founder’s mutation.”
The sister is called over for a minute. During that time a young very pregnant woman comes out of a room, and insists she doesn’t belong there “no matter what I signed.” Mulder gives her a card. Why don’t they inform her – being law enforcement and all – that they can’t keep her there?
The sister comes back. They ask her about the women there. She says they’re homeless, and there because of “the lies of men.” How true! In the patient’s room we see the television is playing an old-timey Planet of the Apes Movie. (Good one.)
Once they’re out, they discuss. Mulder says, “Those women could be incubators.” Scully asks if that’s what happened to her, if she was just an incubator. Mulder tells her, “You’re never just anything.” And that my friends in the magic of the show – the relationship between these two, and why it failed badly once he left, not because people were watching for him, but because people were watching for THEM.
Then they talk about the elephant in the series – baby William, the child who was unfortunately written out because nobody knows what to do with babies on these shows. Mulder reminds Scully that she sent William away so that he’d be safe and his adoption was secret to protect him. Scully worries that he could be out there fighting for his life.
And at this point to anyone who didn’t watch the original, go look for a wiki. But for clarification, their kid may or may not have alien DNA and/or telekinesis or something.
Then she has a fantasy which happens so abruptly that for a moment you wonder if she might have slipped into a parallel universe. She’s there at William’s first day of school. She’s there when he’s running off with his friends, and one night when she hears him shouting, “Mom,” she runs to find him looking in the mirror and when he turns to face her, he has an alien face (kind of like those earless children) and pleads, “What’s happening to me?”
And then Scully is at her desk and she pulls out William’s baby picture.
Next they visit the founder himself. His facility houses the kids from the pictures on Sanjay’s wall. Many of them “real world” known genetic mutations, which Goldman names as they go down the hall, but they’re all glassed in, kept in isolation. Scully talks briefly to one of them through an intercom. In answer to her questions, he tells her he has no parents and has always been there. Goldman explains they have cutting edge therapies which is why the kids live there, and the isolation is to eliminate environmental factors. He explains they are looking for the key to ALL these abnormalities.
“Alien DNA?” Scully asks, and then mentions the DOD involvement.
Goldman says, “I was told you were the rational one.”
But before he can confirm or deny the alien DNA question, a girl manages to get out of her room when the food cart comes and gets pulled back inside. Goldman tells them they’re done there, and goes to where the girl is.
As they leave Mulder gets a call. It’s about Agnes the woman from the pregnancy center they were at earlier – which helps cement the connection between the pregnant women and the children with no parents. They go to a crime scene. She was run down in a tunnel by a speeding car. She’s dead, and the baby was surgically removed.
Mulder theorizes that the “key” Goldman is looking for is the right combination of alien and human DNA. They go to interview Goldman’s wife, who is institutionalized for murdering her baby. The body was never found. She doesn’t want to talk at first, but then does. She realized her daughter was “odd” when she found her alive ten minutes after falling into the pool because she could breathe underwater.
She was pregnant at the time and she knew her husband had done something to the embryo so she tried to get away. Her car hit a deer and crashed. She was crawling away from the car, and took a knife that she conveniently had on her, and slit open her belly. We see this of course, including the baby’s hand sticking out of her body, ready to crawl into the woods. She tells them, “I didn’t kill my baby. I let him out.”
Back at the office looking at the videos from Nugenesis, Mulder notices that while Sanjay was hearing the noise in one room, the janitor in another appeared to be doing something. Honestly, it was hard to see what, but they gave Scully a line, “Action, reaction.”
The janitor is a high school drop out who works for a contracting company, and he’d previously been working at St. Elizabeth’s where Goldman’s wife is. They track him to an isolated home. (There are mountains in the background. Must be a long commute to DC.) His mother answers rifle ready. Or I maybe not a rifle, but she was plenty mad. Mulder suggests, she didn’t give birth to him. The crows are gathered. Mulder hears the noise again and doubles over. Scully runs around looking for Kyle, the janitor. She finds him. He tells her Jackie, Goldman’s wife, is his real mother and he has to find his sister. She gets him to stop doing whatever he was doing to Mulder.
Back they go to Goldman’s facility, with Kyle. What exactly do they think is going to happen at this happy family reunion? Goldman examines Kyle. They haven’t told Goldman who Kyle is. (We missed the first part of that conversation because that’s how the show rolls.) He takes some blood. Kyle asks where Molly is. Goldman wants to know how he knows the name, and Kyle says, “Mom told me to find her.” Maybe it’s family feeling or something, but Goldman actually introduces Kyle to a dark haired girl, maybe the one we saw earlier trying to escape. But Kyle says she’s not his sister and runs down the hall. When he gets to the real Molly, they communicate telepathically and break the wall down with their minds.
They don’t just break glass, they use their minds to push back Scully, Mulder, and Goldman. Scully is knocked out. We see Goldman with blood coming out of where his eyes should have been, and to paraphrase Donald J Trump, American, you could see blood pouring out everywhere, his nose, mouth, whatever.
Cut to the ambulance taking away Goldman’s body. Skinner is there and tells them Kyle and Molly got away. He asks Mulder what happened, but Mulder blacked out if after Goldman’s eyes popped out. “You can’t unsee that,” he says with just the right touch of humor.
Thank you show for not turning into a parody of yourself AND not also not taking yourself too seriously.
Mulder then has his own “what if” fantasy about William. Interesting that just as Scully’s didn’t involve Mulder, Mulder’s doesn’t involve Scully. In Mulder’s version, first they’re watching the apes running around the monolith in the original 2001 A Space Odyssey – an interesting film choice for a Dad and a small child, and one about aliens and evolution. Next they’re launching model rockets. When the cry for help comes in the middle of the night, Mulder goes to William’s room and sees him being grabbed by a beam that’s raising him up – an alien abduction, just like what he thinks happened to his sister.
Will we see Kyle and Molly again? Do they get a spin-off? This was an episode that sooo would have made sense the first time around if Duchovny hadn’t left the series. It’s like a do-over to make the adoption storyline more plausible. It gives it a context and shows it as something that Mulder and Scully may not talk about much, but something they probably each think about a lot, and one of the things that drives them, certainly it’s what got Scully back in the game.
Can’t wait till next week!